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WW II 16-inch gun on its way to Battery Townsley in Marin Headlands

A 16-inch gun (#386 from the Battleship Missouri, the scene of the Japanese surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945) is on its way to its permanent display at Battery Townsley (Google Map) in Marin County. The big gun is 68 feet long, weighs 236,240 pounds, and could fire shells weighing 2,700 pounds at targets up to 25 miles away. The gun was one of nine on the Battleship Missouri during World War II and the Korean War. The gun was replaced when the Missouri was recommissioned in the 1980s and was moved to an arsenal in Nevada, where a number of big guns were gradually sold for scrap. The gun was transferred to the National Park Service at no cost. The gun will be the centerpiece of an historic display of fortifications that protected San Francisco during World War II.

According to SFGate.com:

The big gun is here after a two-day trip from a naval weapons station at Hawthorne, Nev. Because of its size and weight, it had to travel by night on special 32-wheel trailers over Donner Summit on Interstate 80 and then up the Waldo Grade at the north end of the Golden Gate and through the narrow tunnel between Sausalito and the Marin Headlands.

It arrived an hour before dawn Friday and parked near an old Army warehouse on the edge of Rodeo Lagoon awaiting a move Monday, up a winding road to a former fortification called Battery Townsley on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It will be refurbished and painted and put on display in the coming months at Battery Townsley.

Battery Townsley, and a similar top-secret installation of casemated big guns at Fort Funston, protected San Francisco from enemy naval vessels during World War II. Their original guns were removed in 1948 and sold for scrap.

Casemate for 16-inch gun, Battery Davis, Fort Funston, San Francisco, CA

“Getting this gun is something we thought about for years,” said John Martini, a retired park ranger who was one of several volunteers who refurbished Battery Townsley over the past five years.

He said the big gun would be an important part of public displays at the refurbished gun battery. “A gun battery without a gun would be like a railroad museum without a locomotive,” he said.

Bringing the gun back to the Marin Headlands “is not a celebration of war,” said Frank Dean, superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. “It is a celebration of protecting America. It is an important part of our national history.”

In an interesting repetition of history, the gun was moved from Hawthorne by Bigge Crane and Rigging Company, the same firm that moved the original guns from military arsenals to San Francisco and Marin in 1938.

-Bill at

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